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Could the solution to the city’s taxi trouble be worse than the original problem?

Did somebody call a cab? (Image: Danielle Scott)

Toronto cabbies don’t have it easy—and not just because so many of them are wildly overqualified for their current jobs. While the city’s separate-and-unequal licensing system allows some drivers to sell, bequeath or rent out their licences, countless others can’t. Likewise, cabbies who hold the Ambassador licences brought in 13 years back cannot lend their cars out if they get sick and have to give their licence back to the city if and when they’re unable to drive. So, once again, the head of Toronto’s taxi-licensing committee is looking for a fix. The only question is what exactly that fix will be—and if it’ll make the situation better or worse.

The Globe and Mail has the story:

Would-be reformer Councillor Cesar Palacio is entering territory riven with infighting over a convoluted system that deems some licences worth as much $350,000 and others completely worthless, in an industry that has enriched a few and denied a decent living to many.

Mr. Palacio is calling on city staff to launch a round of stakeholder consultations that will likely end in the death of those valueless licences, also known as Ambassadors, which were launched 13 years ago as a saviour for an industry in crisis.

One proposal—favoured by the drivers who have Ambassador licences—is simply to convert them to the standard licences that allow for drivers to rent out their cars, hang on to their licences and even sell them for a profit. The problem with that is taxi companies are already complaining about a glut of cabs in the city. Basically, council is now left with the delightful task of trying to get two interest groups (complicating matters: racial tension) to agree to a new system that could very well cause more problems than it solves—just like the Ambassador program did.  Given the city’s history on this file, we’re not particularly optimistic.

A cure or a calamity? Toronto seeks to overhaul taxi licensing [Globe and Mail]

  • Michael

    It’s so hard to believe that we ever thought of ourselves as “the city that works” when we get tied in knots over something like this. In short: there are too many cabs. They are often empty. They jam the streets. To make up for being empty, cabbies demanded higher fares. They are now too expensive. And therefore even more empty. And there’s this freakish sense of entitlement that *they* own the license and should be able to transfer it, rather than it being issues solely to promote the public interest. And now, we’re just going to double down on what’s not working. Because we are now, collectively, idiots.

  • I Ras Gad Shangox

    What Toronto Ambassador taxi drivers are demanding is a one type of owners licence. I have proposed a plan called the Universal plan which calls for a new type of licence. This plan may have answers to most of what is ailing the Toronto taxi market.

  • GM

    Unrelated to the issue, I don’t really understand how you (author) can make the statement that so many cab drivers are overqualified and use your hyperlink “wildly overqualified for their current jobs.” as support.

    That article makes no mention of cab drivers at all, it discusses the difficulties international medical graduates face when trying to practice in Ontario. There isn’t anything about them becoming cab drivers.

    I’m not saying cab drivers are or aren’t overqualified, I just expect more than an unrelated link to support your statement.

  • Tony M

    I agree with Michael, especially regarding price: cab fare in TO is way to high compared to other cities.